Monday, May 07, 2012

A Necessarily Small Revolution

Cake Poker & Lock PokerWas hearing a bit over the weekend about this Lock Poker move away from the Merge Network, a move which also appears to involve Lock acquiring the Cake Poker Network and renaming the whole kit-and-kaboodle the Revolution Gaming Network.

The weekend rumors appear to have been backed up with more official word this morning from the concerned parties. There’s presser from Cake reporting it “is in the process of selling selected assets” to Lock, and mirror-image one from Lock saying it “is in the process of acquiring assets from Cake.” The latter also notes how the transition will officially be occurring on May 31, at which time players on the sites will encounter “a simple software update” reflecting the newly-created partnership between the Cake network sites and Lock.

I’m a bit swamped at the moment -- caught between SCOOP stuff and wrapping up my “Poker in American Film and Culture” course -- and so can’t really spend too much time pondering this here development. Truth be told, it kind of feels a bit like talking about a trade involving minor league players or future draft picks. In other words, just a faint echo of the “big league” talk from a couple of weeks ago concerning the possible purchase of Full Tilt Poker by PokerStars, even if here we have actual quotes and such rather than all the second- and third-hand fuzziness.

Certainly seems as though Lock’s decision to break away from Merge might have had something to do with that brouhaha a couple of weeks ago over the LOCKOPS tournament series the skin had been planning but the network cancelled. Not completely up on all of the details there, although it did sound as though approval to run the series had been given to Lock, then taken away somewhat surprisingly.

Was reading one article about the Lock-Cake partnership (I realize I’m weirdly avoiding using the word “merger” so as to avoid a pun) that referred to Lock as the “largest US-friendly poker room... on the largest US-friendly poker network,” namely Merge.

The article also suggests the deal and creation of the new Revolution Gaming Network “will likely tip the scales of power for the current US online poker industry,” an impressive-sounding suggestion when one doesn’t think too specifically about how little traffic all of those involved actually get.

Merge is certainly the largest U.S.-facing network, but its 60-plus skins together only attract a fraction of the traffic on other small networks like iPoker and Ongame, all of whom are of course just teeny, tiny blips compared to PokerStars. And Lock is certainly the biggest skin on Merge, accounting for something like 40% of the traffic there from what I’ve read.

It looks like from PokerScout’s numbers that the Cake network only grabs a third or less of the traffic Merge as a whole did -- probably something similar to Lock’s total traffic, which would mean the joining of the two would indeed create a player pool that would jump ahead of Merge’s after losing Lock.

But still, we’re talking about just a few hundred cash game players total. Meanwhile, yesterday’s first day of SCOOP events saw nearly 70,000 entrants signing up for the six tournaments on offer there.

So sure, I guess Lock acquiring Cake does “tip the scales of power” in a relative sense -- as far as U.S.-facing online poker sites go. But globally speaking, online poker has for a good while already been... well... locked up.

(Got over that pun-shyness PDQ.)

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